I push aside the front door of an unfamiliar farmhouse and call for her. She's here. I know it. I grab at a wooden railing and sprint up sand-colored stairs. When I find her at the pit of my fear's labyrinth--stiffened by sorrow-drenched stillness in a room cluttered by shapes and shadows--my mother lies beneath blankets that stack like blank pages.
"I'm dying." I tell her.
"I know." She replies with a surety that chokes me.
I crawl into the cave of covers she's shaped and cling to her body like a slug on an unsteady stick.
A fit of sobs shakes me; wet whimpering wakes me. My stomach skin becomes like the pleats of a compressing accordion, shrinking into folded rows before inhales inflate my paper gut--alternating and accumulating before streams of tears--thick as rock climbing ropes--tow me to the ledge of consciousness. Scott wakes to find my sweaty grip slipping. I can see his confused concern even in this darkness. I scramble up, tottering through my tale, but every word causes my heart to wince and backpedal down my esophagus.
"It was so sad because she was so sad. Like she already knew I was dying and couldn't get out of bed because of her sadness."
His arms coil my middle and dock my heaving blood vessels. I flip my puddled pillow, curl like a fiddlehead and stretch for sleep that is deep and dull.
Months later, over chocolate bars, white wine and short glasses of fizzy brown beer Sheila, Eliza, Erika, Scott and I talk spirituality, which leads our discussion to dreams.
After the death of her dear friend and mentor, Casey in the 1980s, Sheila began dreaming of Casey, dreaming with Casey. Sheila's father--a scientist, she tells us--disagreed that it was Casey visiting her. It became a sticking point between Sheila and her father, but that all changed the night he died. Years after Casey's death--without any warning--Sheila's father lay dying in his bed. Hundreds of miles away, Sheila slept, dreaming with him. In the dream she is pushing him in a wheelchair, rushing and running. They are both cracking up--the part I love most--and Sheila is telling her father to stop making her laugh because she has to get him to the hospital! They both know in the dream that he is dying. That he will die if they do not reach the automated doors of the Emergency Room. And yet, they cannot stop from howling.
They never make it to the hospital.
When Sheila's phone rang early the next morning, Liesel--Sheila's longtime love--shook Sheila awake.
"It's someone calling to tell me that my father died." Sheila said.
"Are you going to get it?" Liesel asked.
"No, not yet. I need a minute."
It was Sheila's sister calling to break the news of their father's death.
Within the safe spiritual space of a jubilant dream, Sheila's father let her down gently, while, simultaneously, showing her that he believed in her dreams after all.
Next, Eliza tells the story of a mundane dream she once had. A dream four years later she experienced in real life. It is a dream of easily forgotten details--a kitchen sink, backyard grass, a man walking toward her--however this sequence of dreamt seconds hung like a chain of charms from the neck of her memory and years later, when she saw them happening to her and around her, she realized that the stranger from the old dream was her new boyfriend.
"Did you tell him about it?" I ask about the man she still calls hers.
"No, I didn't want to weird him out."
"I had a horrible dream recently." I say, not realizing the potentially frightening correlation between their dreams and mine. I tell my friends the dream and weep as I do because it is safe to and because with their attentive concern and love, I simply can't not. At the end of my telling, I wipe at my eyes. Erika moves to the arm of the cream-colored couch and begins silently circling my back with the palm of her hand. "I don't know why I'm crying!" I sputter, but they don't judge me or think it's anything but sweet.
Scott leans in--forearms to knees--and says how my dream could be a prediction: like if you compare it to Eliza's dream of her future love or Sheila's with her dying father. Not necessarily that my dream will happen soon, he reassures, but that it could be something that happens later.
This makes me cry all over again. Because even if we are both old as smooth sea glass, I can't imagine my death would ever be easy for either of us. She in her grief. Me in mine. Me in hers.